We had the good fortune of connecting with John Koller and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi John, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
My mom is from El Salvador and my dad is from Germany. Both of their stories are very unique and had a big impact on my childhood and how I see the world. Coming to the United States was a bold and adventurous move for them and I think I’ve inherited a certain resilient, “can do” attitude from them.
As much as I love Los Angeles, I feel very fortunate to have experienced the diversity and landscape of the Bay Area while I was growing up. I went to San Jose State University and graduated right around the time Silicon Valley was beginning to take off. It’s hard to imagine college life without a cell phone! Looking back, I really appreciate those simpler times. There’s a certain amount of romance to that time and place.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I pride myself on taking risks within my process. Printmaking, painting, photography, collage, sculpture and mixed media present a lot of challenges, for myself and sometimes for the viewer. I think every industry prefers a singular, easily defined category, style or specialization. I totally get it … but I don’t think it’s for me. I believe innovation and a diversified output is my strength. It’s a calculated risk worth taking.
Circling back … how did I get here? I think it’s a great story in diversification, in itself. Over the course of my life, I’ve worked as (in no particular order): a janitor, window installer, fashion photographer, hardware store clerk, graphic designer, airline ramp agent, web designer, social media coordinator and art director. I’ve done all these jobs with two things in mind: Survival and getting back to my studio.
The lesson I’ve learned? (but am always navigating):
What do I want the world to know about me and my story?
My goal is to have an exhibition titled, “No One Way.”
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
This is a tough question! I live near Redondo Beach now, but a good part of my heart and friends are still in Long Beach.
The Redondo Beach tour:
South Bay Botanic Gardens. Redondo Beach Pier, including Old Tony’s, Naja’s Place and R10 Social House. A walk from the Redondo Beach pier to Hermosa Beach. Hopefully, the weather is nice and a volleyball tournament is in town! If there’s time, The Red Onion, The Torrance Art Museum and Smog City Brewing.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
First, I’d love to give a shout out to California State University, Long Beach!
Long Beach was the perfect city and college for me to get my MFA after leaving the Bay Area. Shout out to Jeffrey Ryan and Christopher Miles in the Art Department. And special shout outs to my dear friends and mentors Linda Day (RIP) and Tommy Freeman (RIP), also from the CSULB Art Department.
Shout out to Lari Pittman and Chris Ofili. I like to call these two my “art godfathers.” When I was a young(er) artist, their work opened doors and inspired me to push boundaries.
Shout out to two of my all-time art heroes: Jasper Johns and Bruce Conner. Legends.
John Koller and Marissa Koller